Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

FBI director to testify Monday as House committee starts hearings on Russia

FBI Director James Comey leaves a closed door meeting with senators at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Comey will testify in a public House Intelligence Committee hearing on the possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections on Monday.  [Photo by Mark Wilson | Getty Images]

FBI Director James Comey leaves a closed door meeting with senators at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Comey will testify in a public House Intelligence Committee hearing on the possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections on Monday. [Photo by Mark Wilson | Getty Images]

WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey will be back on the hot seat Monday when he testifies to Congress about Russian attempts to disrupt the last years U.S. presidential election.

But "back on" might imply wrongly that he has ever been off it.

Since July, when he made his first statement on the FBI investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails, Comey has been living on that seat. During that time, he has been a hero to Democrats, a villain to Republicans, a villain to Democrats, a hero to Republicans.

Democrats blame Comey for costing Clinton the election. They now count on him for the information to finally tear apart President Donald Trump's allegations that President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower in New York during the campaign.

But Comey's reality is that as he settles down to address the House Intelligence Committee in the first public testimony about intelligence issues surrounding the past election, he's returning to a place that is frequently angry at him, and constantly calling on him to return.

Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, will also be questioned and is expected to have just as much information as Comey.

How much the two will share is unknown.

The hearing begins the public process to determine whether there's fire beneath the smoke covering the nation's capital. Investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees and other congressional panels, including the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Government Oversight Committee, are dealing with a wide range of issues.

Recent headlines and statements have focused on whether Obama ordered Trump Tower to be wiretapped during the campaign. There is little belief, even among Trump loyalists, that Trump's accusations will be vindicated.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said as much recently when asked what he expects from the hearing. "I've been very clear," he said. "There was no physical wiretap."

But the Trump Tower wiretap claim is really a sidelight to the main investigation. The big question is whether Russia interfered in the U.S. election, as the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a January report. And if it did, did anyone in Russia work with — "colluded" is the preferred word — anyone in the Trump campaign?.

That's the reason behind the focus on communications between Trump's inner circle and Russian officials. So when Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Trump's short-lived national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is found to have talked with a Russian ambassador - and in Flynn's case accepted more than $33,000 from the television station RT, which U.S. intelligence has called the "Kremlin's principal international propaganda outlet" — congressional officials think it requires investigation.

Nunes says Comey's testimony is part of the investigation, not a show of already known facts. "We're looking for answers to a number of questions," he said. "That's what I expect: answers."

Congressional investigators so far have been allowed to review material that supported the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia meddled in the election, hacking into Democratic computers and distributing the pirated contents through WikiLeaks, to benefit Trump and hurt Clinton. But they've had to go to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and were permitted to take notes only by hand. Nunes said the committee had asked for permission to use computers.

The senior Democrat on Nunes' committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, thinks the Trump wiretap allegations will be quickly cleared up. After that, he's not certain what information will emerge.

Perhaps the committee will want to see Trump's tax returns to determine whether the president has Russian financial entanglements.

The committee also will probe a series of leaks that Nunes in particular thinks were serious violations of U.S. law on the handling of classified information. Who might have leaked, for example, that Flynn had been recorded talking to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak is one question the committee would like answered.

Throughout, Comey is expected to remain a fixture before the committee, in public on Monday and many other times in private. And not just the House committee. The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled its first public hearing on the Russia question for March 30, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says he has a promise that Comey will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer two questions: did any U.S. court issue an order allowing the Trump campaign to be bugged and is there an open criminal investigation into Trump or his associates?

FBI director to testify Monday as House committee starts hearings on Russia 03/20/17 [Last modified: Sunday, March 19, 2017 3:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late

    Editorials

    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.
  3. Florida concealed weapons permit holders exposed in computer hack

    Blogs

    More than 16,000 concealed weapons permit holders in Florida may have had their names accidently made public because of a data breach at the The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

  4. Editorial: Careless words unfit for a mayor

    Editorials

    Even his critics marvel at how well Bob Buckhorn has grown into the job since first being elected as Tampa's mayor in 2011. His grace in public and his knack for saying and doing the right things has reflected well on the city and bestowed civic pride in the mayor's office. That's why Buckhorn's cheap shot at the media …

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during a Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center last year. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  5. SCOTUS won't hear Bondi appeal on death penalty

    Blogs

    From Dara Kam at News Service of Florida:

    Bondi